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June 30, 2015 0

ISIS-Related Arrests in June Emphasize Ongoing Security Concerns

Four­teen U.S. res­i­dents from 7 states have been linked to ter­ror­ist activ­ity inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) this month alone.

Nicholas Rovinski of Rhode Island was allegedly part of a Boston-area plot and hoped to travel to join ISIS.

Nicholas Rovin­ski of Rhode Island was allegedly part of a Boston-area plot and hoped to travel to join ISIS.

Of the 14, five pri­mar­ily were arrested for attempt­ing join ISIS (some of them also dis­cussed pos­si­ble attacks in the event that their travel plans failed), one for recruit­ing for ISIS and eight for their roles in domes­tic plots that included a plot to behead Boston area law enforce­ment offi­cers, one to bomb New York City land­marks, the shoot­ing in Gar­land and another to shoot peo­ple and det­o­nate a bomb in North Carolina.

Three of the indi­vid­u­als allegedly used knives in con­fronta­tions with law enforce­ment offi­cials who were mon­i­tor­ing or attempt­ing to ques­tion them (Fareed Mumuni, Munther Omar Saleh, and Usaama Rahim; see below). A fourth indi­vid­ual, Amir Said Abdul Rah­man Al-Ghazi, had also pur­chased a knife but did not use it.

ISIS has pop­u­lar­ized the use of knives in its pro­pa­ganda, both through its use of knives in behead­ing videos and through direct calls for sup­port­ers to arm them­selves with knives or any other weapons avail­able. A speech pur­port­edly by ISIS spokesman Abu Moham­mad Al Adnani in Sep­tem­ber 2014, for exam­ple, told sup­port­ers, “If you are not able to find an IED or a bul­let, then sin­gle out the dis­be­liev­ing Amer­i­can, French­man, or any of his allies.  Smash his head with a rock, or slaugh­ter him with a knife, or run him over with your car.…” That same speech also directly encour­aged tar­get­ing law enforce­ment offi­cials, stat­ing, “Strike their police, secu­rity and intel­li­gence members….”

A Jan­u­ary 2015 speech pur­port­edly by Adnani called for attacks, “whether with an explo­sive device, a bul­let, a knife, a car, a rock or even a boot or a fist,” and a video released in April 2015 stated, “Your neigh­bor is a kaf­fir (apos­tate)… take a big knife and give him what he rightly deserves.”

Munther Omar Saleh allegedly conspired to bomb a New York landmark.

Munther Omar Saleh allegedly con­spired to bomb a New York landmark.

All 14 of the indi­vid­u­als linked to ter­ror in June appear to be moti­vated by ISIS and nearly all appear to have been influ­enced by ISIS’s online pro­pa­ganda and social media presence.

Since ISIS announced its inde­pen­dence from Al Qaeda in 2014, 86% of U.S. res­i­dents engag­ing in activ­ity on behalf of for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions since 2014 have been linked to ISIS.

A total of 54 U.S. res­i­dents have been linked to Islamic extrem­ist activ­ity in the first half of 2015 – more than dou­ble the num­ber of indi­vid­u­als in 2014.

The FBI, which has indi­cated that it has ongo­ing ISIS-related inves­ti­ga­tions in all 50 states, has issued a warn­ing regard­ing increased secu­rity con­cerns over the July 4th weekend.

The activ­i­ties of the 14 U.S. res­i­dents arrested in June, as described in court doc­u­ments, are detailed below.

  • Usaama Rahim, a 26-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Mass­a­chu­setts, was killed on June 2, 2015, when he drew a knife after being approached by law enforce­ment offi­cials. Rahim had allegedly con­spired with David Wright, a 25-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Mass­a­chu­setts arrested later that day on a charge of con­spir­acy to behead Pamela Geller, head of the anti-Muslim orga­ni­za­tion Stop Islam­i­ciza­tion of Amer­ica. The two later shifted their plans and dis­cussed behead­ing police offi­cers. Alleged co-conspirator Nicholas Rovin­ski, a 24-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Rhode Island, was arrested June 12. Rovin­ski had also allegedly hoped to travel to join ISIS.
  • Reza Nikne­jad, an 18-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Vir­ginia, was charged in absen­tia on June 10, 2015 with pro­vid­ing mate­r­ial sup­port for ISIS. Nikne­jad, who is pre­sumed to have joined ISIS, had allegedly been encour­aged to travel by Ali Shukri Amin, a 17-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Vir­ginia who had been arrested in February.

    Decarus Thomas of Arizona allegedly aided the Garland shooters

    Decarus Thomas of Ari­zona allegedly aided the Gar­land shooters

  • Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem (Decarus Thomas), a 43-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Ari­zona and a con­vert to Islam, was arrested on June 10, 2015, for allegedly aid­ing Gar­land shoot­ers Elton Simp­son and Nadir Soofi. Soofi and Simp­son were killed when they shot at a Texas com­mu­nity cen­ter in May. Kareem is believed to have opened his home to Soofi and Simp­son to dis­cuss their plot and to have sup­plied the rifles they used in their shooting.
  • Akmal Zakirov, a 29-year-old U.S. res­i­dent from New York, was arrested on June 11, 2015, for fund­ing travel plans for Abdura­sul Juraboev and Akhror Saidakhme­tov, New York res­i­dents arrested in Feb­ru­ary for attempt­ing to join ISIS. Juraboev and Said­khme­tov had also allegedly dis­cussed the pos­si­bil­ity of shoot­ing police offi­cers and shoot­ing the FBI head­quar­ters. Juraboev had also allegedly sug­gested that he would attempt to shoot Pres­i­dent Obama on behalf of ISIS.
  • Munther Omar Saleh, a 20-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from New York, was arrested on June 13, 2015, for allegedly con­spir­ing to bomb an unspec­i­fied land­mark in New York City. Accord­ing to reports, Saleh had researched how to acquire mate­ri­als for and build a pres­sure cooker bomb online. Saleh was arrested when he attempted to attack a law enforce­ment offi­cer who had been mon­i­tor­ing him. Salah was arrested together with an unnamed 17-year-old co-conspirator. Saleh’s other alleged co-conspirator,  Fareed Mumuni, a 21-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from New York, was arrested on June 17, 2015. Mumuni also attempted to attack a law enforce­ment offi­cer who had come to his res­i­dence to ques­tion him.
  • Samuel Rahamin Topaz, a 20-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from New Jer­sey and a con­vert to Islam, was arrested on June 18, 2015, for allegedly attempt­ing to travel to join ISIS. Topaz had engaged in con­ver­sa­tions with Saleh and Mumuni, who allegedly encour­aged his plans. Topaz had also been in con­tact with Alaa Saadeh, a 23-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from New Jer­sey arrested on June 29 and Saadeh’s brother, a U.S. cit­i­zen and for­mer New Jer­sey res­i­dent who was arrested in June in Jor­dan, allegedly on his way to join ISIS. Topaz and Saadeh had both report­edly planned to meet Saadeh’s brother in ISIS con­trolled ter­ri­tory together with Munther Saleh

    Justin Sullivan of North Carolina allegedly planned a domestic attack.

    Justin Sul­li­van of North Car­olina allegedly planned a domes­tic attack.

  • Amir Said Abdul Rah­man Al-Ghazi (for­merly Robert McCul­lum), a 38-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen and a con­vert to Islam from Ohio, was arrested on June 19, 2015, on charges of pro­vid­ing mate­r­ial sup­port to ISIS, being a felon in pos­ses­sion of a weapon and dis­tri­b­u­tion of mar­i­juana. Al-Ghazi had attempted to recruit for ISIS by cre­at­ing pro-ISIS pro­pa­ganda videos. He had pur­chased the gun for which he was charged as well as a machete for his pro­pa­ganda videos. Al-Ghazi had also expressed inter­est in under­tak­ing a domes­tic attack involv­ing the derail­ing of a train.
  • Justin Nojan Sul­li­van, a 19-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen and con­vert to Islam from North Car­olina, was arrested on June 22, 2015, on charges of pro­vid­ing mate­r­ial sup­port to ISIS. Sul­li­van allegedly planned to attack local estab­lish­ments, allegedly for train­ing, and fol­low them up with a bomb­ing. Although the tar­get for his bomb­ing was unspec­i­fied, Sul­li­van expressed intent to kill 1,000 people.

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April 28, 2015 0

U.S. Islamic Extremism Arrests In 2015 Exceed 2014 Numbers

Christopher Lee Cornell, arrested in January 2015

Christo­pher Lee Cor­nell, arrested in Jan­u­ary 2015

Thirty-one indi­vid­u­als liv­ing in the U.S. have been linked to ter­ror­ism moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy in the first four months of 2015. This sur­passes the total in each of the past two years: 26 indi­vid­u­als  liv­ing in the U.S. were linked to such ter­ror­ism in all of 2014 and 22 in 2013.

ADL has issued a new report that sheds light on the demo­graph­ics of these indi­vid­u­als and may pro­vide con­text for think­ing about the approx­i­mately 180 unknown Amer­i­cans believed to have trav­eled to join the con­flict in Syria and Iraq, an unknown num­ber of whom may have joined ter­ror­ist organizations.

The report details the affil­i­a­tions, plans and aims of U.S. res­i­dents linked to ter­ror­ism moti­vated by the ide­olo­gies of Islamic extremism.

About 81% of the U.S. res­i­dents linked to ter­ror­ism moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­olo­gies since 2014 have sup­ported ISIS, influ­enced at least in part by the group’s sophis­ti­cated use of social media com­mu­ni­ca­tion and recruit­ment, as well as by the high vol­ume of cov­er­age sur­round­ing its activ­ity and the ongo­ing pres­ence of con­flict in Syria and Iraq.

Tairod Pugh, arrested in March 2015

Tairod Pugh, arrested in March 2015

Of those indi­vid­u­als linked to ter­ror­ism in 2015, 16 indi­vid­u­als are believed to have trav­eled or planned to travel to join ter­ror groups abroad, 3 are believed to have attempted to aid other Amer­i­cans in join­ing ISIS, and 7 were attempt­ing to fund ISIS.

Eleven of the indi­vid­u­als were also engaged in domes­tic plots. Five out of the 7 plots dis­cussed were directed against mil­i­tary insti­tu­tions or per­son­nel – long­stand­ing tar­gets for such vio­lence.

The report also exam­ines demo­graphic sta­tis­tics of the indi­vid­u­als, includ­ing age, gen­der, eth­nic­ity and geo­graphic distribution.

The indi­vid­u­als arrested in 2015 range in age from 16 to 47.

At least seven of them, or just under one-quarter, were con­verts to Islam. That per­cent­age is com­pa­ra­ble to the per­cent­age in 2014.

Nine of the 31 indi­vid­u­als had fam­ily mem­bers who have also been impli­cated in Islamic extrem­ist activity.

Ramiz and Sedina Hodzic, arrested in February 2015

Ramiz and Sed­ina Hodzic, arrested in Feb­ru­ary 2015

Five of them were women, result­ing in a total of 14 women linked to Islamic extrem­ism since the start of 2014. Women engag­ing with ter­ror­ist groups is not a new phe­nom­e­non, but these num­bers rep­re­sent a sig­nif­i­cant increase, which may result in part from direct recruit­ment of women by ISIS.

Islamic extrem­ism related arrests in 2015 have taken place in 11 states, includ­ing 6 indi­vid­u­als arrested in New York, 4 each in

Min­nesota and Illi­nois, 3 in Mis­souri and 2 each in Ohio, Cal­i­for­nia and Kansas One Amer­i­can was arrested in Pak­istan but was orig­i­nally from Texas.

The full report is avail­able on the ADL website.

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April 14, 2015 3

New ISIS Videos Threaten U.S. Amid Increase In Domestic Plots

Image promoting new ISIS video

Image pro­mot­ing new ISIS video

Two new videos released this week by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) demon­strate a ramp­ing up of threats against the U.S. as ter­ror groups increas­ingly call for home­grown attacks against West­ern coun­tries – and as indi­vid­u­als increas­ingly appear to be heed­ing those calls.

Recent arrests of U.S. res­i­dents plan­ning domes­tic attacks in ISIS’s name indi­cates that such calls for vio­lence can have an impact on Amer­i­cans moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism and the pro­pa­ganda they find online dis­trib­uted by ISIS and other ter­ror groups.

There have been five alleged instances of domes­tic plots in the U.S. in 2015, rang­ing from con­ver­sa­tions about the pos­si­bil­ity of attack to actual attempted attacks. All were report­edly planned by indi­vid­u­als claim­ing alle­giance to ISIS.

  • Christo­pher Lee Cor­nell of Ohio, arrested in Jan­u­ary for his alleged plot to attack the U.S. Capi­tol after fail­ing to con­nect with ISIS mem­bers abroad.
  • Abdura­sul Juraboev and Akhror Saidakhme­tov of New York, arrested in Feb­ru­ary and charged with mate­r­ial sup­port for ter­ror. Court doc­u­ments state they were attempt­ing to join ISIS and dis­cussing the pos­si­bil­ity of a domes­tic attack.
  • Hasan and Jonas Edmonds of Illi­nois, arrested in March and charged with attempt­ing to join ISIS and plot­ting an attack against a mil­i­tary base.
  • Noelle Velentzas and Asia Sid­diqui of New York, arrested in April for allegedly pur­chas­ing bomb-making equip­ment with plans for an attack.
  • John T. Booker and Alexan­der Blair of Kansas, arrested in April for allegedly attempt­ing to under­take a sui­cide attack at the Ft. Riley mil­i­tary base.

These are among the 23 U.S. res­i­dents arrested on ter­ror charges thus far in 2015, all but two of whom claimed alle­giance to ISIS.

Both of the videos released this week fea­ture ref­er­ences to pre­vi­ous ter­ror attacks in West­ern coun­tries and footage of bru­tal exe­cu­tions of ISIS vic­tims in Iraq and Syria, as well as encour­age­ment of individually-directed domes­tic plots.

One of the videos, released on April 10, was titled “We Will Burn Amer­ica.” It fea­tured footage and praise of the Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Cen­ter along with nar­ra­tion in Ara­bic with Eng­lish sub­ti­tles stat­ing, “Sep­tem­ber 11 will be repeated.”

The video also fea­tures images from the attack on the Paris kosher super­mar­ket and shoot­ings in Canada, both of which were under­taken by indi­vid­u­als act­ing in ISIS’s name, as well as images of behead­ings by ISIS. Its style was rem­i­nis­cent of ISIS’s feature-film-length pro­pa­ganda video “Flames of War,” which was shot to resem­ble an action movie and high­lights the group’s ide­o­log­i­cal claims of a bat­tle between good and evil, Islam and the West.

“We Will Burn Amer­ica” was released on Twit­ter with the hash­tag #we_will_burn_america. ISIS reg­u­larly encour­ages its sup­port­ers to par­tic­i­pate in hash­tag cam­paigns designed to arti­fi­cially cre­ate trend­ing items and spread the group’s pro­pa­ganda. Last sum­mer, the group under­took two hash­tag cam­paigns sim­i­larly threat­en­ing the U.S., with the hash­tags #Calami­ty­Will­Be­fal­lUS and #AMes­sage­FromI­SIS­ToUS.

The sec­ond video, released April 14, takes the form of a music video encour­ag­ing lone-wolf attacks and threat­en­ing West­ern coun­tries. The lan­guage is Ger­man, with Eng­lish sub­ti­tles. ISIS has released mul­ti­ple music videos to appeal to young audi­ences while con­vey­ing the group’s messages.

A screenshot from the new ISIS music video

A screen­shot from the new ISIS music video

Addressed “to the ene­mies of Allah,” the video’s nar­ra­tion states that “this is a mes­sage and more are going to fol­low.” The video por­trays a man read­ing the Qu’ran and watch­ing ISIS pro­pa­ganda on his com­puter, includ­ing graphic videos of behead­ings, the burn­ing of the Jor­dan­ian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh, mass killings, and wounded sol­diers. “We want your blood,” it states, “it tastes so wonderful.”

It then shows indi­vid­u­als prepar­ing for dif­fer­ent types of domes­tic attacks, includ­ing a stab­bing, car bomb, and a sui­cide bomb­ing in Times Square, as well as learn­ing about gun use and bomb-making online – seem­ingly exam­ples for would-be domes­tic attack­ers and an acknowl­edg­ment of the impor­tance of online ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda. Images of pre­vi­ous attacks against the West, includ­ing the attack against the Paris kosher super­mar­ket, are shown as well. “In France it has been proven by deeds. Ger­man sleeper cell are wait­ing,” it states. “Allah has called you! … Your neigh­bor is a kaf­fir (apos­tate)… take a big knife and give him what he rightly deserves.”

The release of the videos comes as ISIS is los­ing ter­ri­tory and recruits in the Mid­dle East. Losses by ter­ror­ist groups have often cor­re­sponded with increased calls for attacks abroad, which do not require resource expen­di­ture by the ter­ror group itself and can then be claimed as vic­to­ries for the group. Al Shabaab, for exam­ple, has sim­i­larly released calls for domes­tic attacks abroad in the past year as it under­goes losses of recruits, lead­er­ship, and ter­ri­tory in Soma­lia and its sur­round­ing countries.

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